39. If some students experience difficulty with spelling, what activities can focus on this weakness?

Spelling is an arduous task that is rather unpleasant to master. Some students love it -- and they become champion spelling bees! For most students, however, spelling is not a favorite subject. Great doctors, famous men and women, and even vice-presidents forget their spelling rules every now and then.

All computer software programs come with spellers to help those that still need help spelling correctly. And then, of course, not even the most sophisticated software can help some poor spellers. Recently my very own son confused "assess" with "asses." The computer software did not help him much. (By the way, he works for Intel.)

The spelling of the words we use today, as I have explained in answering other questions, is the result of historical accidents and/or tradition. Whether in English, Spanish, French, German, or any other language that uses the "ROMAN" alphabet, the spelling of the words in use today in those languages is totally arbitrary, not truly based on a one-to-one relationship between the sounds in these languages and the letters in the "ROMAN" alphabet. Clearly, the "ROMAN" alphabet probably was quite accurate in spelling the Classical Latin sounds it was created to represent. Clearly, the "ROMAN" alphabet is quite inaccurate in spelling the sounds of English, Spanish, French, German, or any other language it was NOT created to represent. What can we do to help students?

What does research tell us about learning to spell? One thing we know is that students need to be exposed to a word (orally and in writing) at least 70 times for that word to be stored in the brain’s long term memory. Once stored in the long term memory, words come to mind easily. Thus, to learn to spell students must have many meaningful encounters with words, at least 70 meaningful exposures.  How can we help students SEE words in meaningful contexts? Two ways:

(1) The words must be easily seen. Posting words in the classroom helps a great deal.

(2) The words must be posted in a MEANINGFUL way, and there is no better way to post words that when they are grouped in MEANING CATEGORIES.

What are MEANING CATEGORIES? Each and every word, each and every expression, belongs to a category in terms of what the word or expression MEANS (NOT the grammatical category, that is, whether the word is a noun, or a verb, etc.) For example, there are hundreds of words that MEAN "motion:" run, walk, skip, wave, blink, twist, etc., etc. When words are posted together, in terms of what they mean, words are remembered better. There are hundreds of words and expressions that refer to "time:" in a wink, in just a second, early, mid-day, forever, etc., etc. Grouping together words and expressions that belong to the same meaning category, and posting the words together by categories, are EFFECTIVE ways to help students remember words.

Posting words by meaning categories helps students easily find a word to check how it is spelled. For example, a teacher recently told a group of colleagues how well she still remembers her frustration as a young teenager in trying to spell the word "onion." Asking her mother for help, her mother suggested to "sound out" the word and then looking it up in the dictionary. She followed her mother’s suggestion and spent hours looking for "onion" under "U." Meaning categories help students immediately find the word they are looking for: the meaning category in the case of "onion" could be "foods," or "vegetables," or "produce," or "edible bulbs," etc. A student does NOT need to rely only on (h)is/er dictionary skills to look up words grouped by meaning categories.

Meaning categories can be DATED: As a word is entered and posted in a meaning category, its date of entry can be noted. From that date on, ALL students can be help accountable for correctly spelling the posted words.

Besides MEANING CATEGORIES, words in English, for example, can also be grouped by spelling patterns or by "word families." In this case, the posted, grouped words all have the same spelling pattern and students can easily remember which words are spelled with which patterns. For example, many English Learners have difficulty spelling "because." Posting "because" along with other similarly spelled words helps: because, cause, clause, applause, etc.




For more in-depth information, classroom demonstrations, and "coaching" of new and/or experienced teachers, Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK offers:

1. Cognitive - Academic Language and Vocabulary Development
2. Cross Cultural Diversity - Multicultural Strategies
3. Effective Instruction for English Learners (L.E.P. students) Parts 1, 2, 3, 4
4. Promoting Academic Success in Language Minority Students
5. Cognitive - Academic Language and Vocabulary Development
6. Oral Language / Literacy Skills / Higher Order Thinking Skills
7. 50/50 Dual Language Programs: design, planning and implementation
8. The Structure of English / The Structure of Spanish
9. Transition: Introduction to English Reading

Web Site Programs for Teachers: Numbers 1, 5, 7, 8, and 9.
Web Site Programs for
Paraprofessionals: Number 3.
Web Site Programs for
New Teachers:
Enhanced Cultural Sensitivity - The Challenge of Students Diversity
Identifying / Responding to Students' Language Needs
Phonemic Awareness: Teaching English phonics to L.E.P. students
Relationship Between Reading, Writing and Spelling
Improving Reading Performance -- Building Oral Language Skills)

Write and e-mail any additional questions you may have, and Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK will establish with you, your school or district a Technical Assistance Service Contract. Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK will answer all your questions promptly and to your satisfaction.


For information and credentials please click on the link below or contact directly:


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